Friday proved to be a lovely day to glide down to Albuquerque from Santa Fe, enjoy some good Tex-Mex for lunch, then hook up with friends for a few pints.
When Graham and I arrived at the Il Vicino brewery tap on Vasser (in the northeast quadrant of the city), it was 4:15 p.m., and only a dozen or so people were there. Within an hour, it was jam-packed with loyal regulars.
Il Vicino is a local/regional Italian restaurant chain that has been brewing since 1994. Currently the brewing takes place at the industrial park location shown above and below, with only a tiny tap room and a vibrant patio for beer service on site. What the location lacks in ambience (actually, not much), it compensates with the evangelical fervor of its customers. As with Second Street Brewing in Santa Fe, it was a great demographic cross-section of people.
Beer scribe and resident Stan Hieronymus met us at the tap room, and he introduced Brady, Il Vicino's brewer, who found time while working to pour samples of some upcoming seasonals brewed with Belgian yeast. Soon our friend Steve Bohannon arrived, and after that his girlfriend Caroline, and we embarked on a journey to Central Avenue. If you've been to Bardstown Road in Louisville, then you have an idea of Central in Albuquerque. It's near the campus of the University of New Mexico, and was filled to the brim with youthful revelers.
We dined at the Il Vicino's Nob Hill outpost (extra anchovies, please), then found it impossible to resist certain warnings we'd been given about Kelly's Brewery & BYOB, an industrial strength college-aged party center, brewery and brew-on-premise located right across the street.
The Kelly's venue is fun -- it's an old gas station and auto showroom, and huge ... and loud .. and any minute I expected someone to uncoil a garden hose and spray the place down. Friday night, all right; plastic cups, televised sports and expired fruit sections meant for Corona and foo foo drinks, but more so than that, Kelly's shall now be known as the home of sour banana Belgian Dubbel, although in fairness the Imperial Stout was drinkable.
I know -- I was warned. Sometimes you have to crane your neck and gaze at the wreck.
Much fun was had by all, and we made it back to the hotel reasonably early and fit for driving 600 more miles on Saturday.